Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

NASW and the NASW Foundation, along with leading medical organizations, have partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Collaborative for Alcohol-Free Pregnancy, a cross-discipline public health initiative. Together, we are encouraging health professionals to use proven prevention strategies in routine patient care.

As part of this initiative, in 2018 and 2022 NASW, NASW Foundation and The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) Steve Hicks School of Social Work completed two successful four-year partnerships representing social work in the CDC’s Collaborative for Alcohol-Free Pregnancyand embarked on a new four-year project partnership with UT Austin and CDC that started in 2022.  

This initiative, Engaging Social Workers in Preventing Alcohol- and Other Substance-Exposed Pregnancies, is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of a financial assistance award totaling $560,000 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

NASW, NASW Foundation, UTA and CDC:  FASD and Alcohol Awareness Publications

“Let’s Talk”: Social Workers’ Vital Role in Reducing Risky Drinking

Social Worker Talking With Female Client

Social workers are needed on the front lines of a growing women’s health issue: risky drinking. Women’s rates of deaths tied to alcohol increased 85 percent from 1999 to 2017, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. That’s compared to a 35 percent increase among men and a 51 percent overall increase in deaths tied to alcohol. What’s more, research also shows that women who drink alcohol face a higher risk of alcohol-related problems – including liver damage and heart disease – than men who drink the same amount.

As one of the largest groups of behavioral health providers, social workers are well positioned to help women avoid drinking too much, including avoiding alcohol during pregnancy. In addition, the variety of social work practice settings – including health and mental health centers, hospitals, and private practice – creates a wide range of opportunities to assess and intervene when women drink at risky levels.  To read the full article, posted March 29, 2020 on NASW's Social Work Blog, please follow this link >>   

How to Make Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Routine

Alcohol screening and brief intervention (SBI) is an evidence-based tool backed by more than 30 years of research. Yet

Social Worker Talking With Pregnant Mother

most people have not talked to a health professional about their drinking. Among women, only 13 percent have talked to professional about how much they drink – despite the fact that risky drinking among women has grown rapidly.  

April 9 is National Alcohol Screening Day – a call to make screening and brief intervention (SBI) part of your routine practice. Social workers are an integral part of healthcare and should take a leading role in primary prevention of risky drinking among women.

You can help women avoid drinking too much, including avoiding alcohol during pregnancy, in three steps: screening, intervention and referral.  To read the full article, posted April 5, 2020 on NASW's Social Work Blog, please follow this link >>

CDC Collaborative for Alcohol-Free Pregnancy

Health professionals play a key role in reducing the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders through the use of evidence-based practices, such as alcohol screening and brief intervention (alcohol SBI), that target high-risk drinking and the prevention of alcohol-exposed pregnancy. As part of CDC’s cross-discipline collaborative, our social work team is working with physicians, nurses, and medical assistants to educate healthcare professionals about the importance of talking to women about risky alcohol use and to facilitate use of alcohol SBI in healthcare practice.

NASW joins the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, and other leading health organizations in CDC’s national campaign to increase FASD awareness and improve primary prevention in women’s healthcare practice.

NASW serves as a partner to target social work practice. The purpose of this initiative is to strengthen research-to-practice linkages between CDC’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders programs and selected practice disciplines that are well positioned to advance FASD identification, treatment, and prevention practice. 

NASW’s overall role on the project has been to:

  • work closely with the UT Austin and CDC’s cross-discipline Collaborative for Alcohol-Free Pregnancy on planning, dissemination and training on FASD awareness and prevention practice among social work practitioners at both national and state levels; 
  • facilitate promotion and delivery of FASD training opportunities through NASW’s continuing education and communication channels; and, 
  • assist with dissemination of FASD information through NASW’s online and print communications and programming. 

CDC Reaching Healthcare Professionals in the Prevention of FASD

NASW, the NASW Foundation, and UT Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work continue as social work partners in CDC’s cross-discipline Collaborative for Alcohol-Free Pregnancy with a four-year CDC grant (2018-2022) focused on primary prevention in health practice. High-risk and binge drinking rates among U.S. women have increased significantly over recent years, with 1-in-10 women now drinking at excessive levels linked to alcohol-related health risks, injuries, and chronic conditions.  At the same time, up to 5% of U.S. school children are living with the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, a group of permanent — yet preventable—conditions caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. The patterns of alcohol risk behaviors among women in concert with the alarming prevalence of FASD highlight the critical public health need for a cross-discipline prevention approach.

Under this CDC grant, our social work team will work with the Collaborative to identify and address gaps in health professionals’ information and continuing education needs regarding risky alcohol use, alcohol use during pregnancy, and alcohol screening, and brief intervention for primary prevention.   

NASW and the NASW Foundation will facilitate CDC’s efforts to reach a national audience of social work practitioners serving women in primary care settings. Within this project, NASW will conduct a membership survey assessing attitudes, practices, and continuing education needs around the topic of risky alcohol use and alcohol use during pregnancy. Using survey data to inform design of subsequent activities, NASW will continue to work with UT Austin to develop and distribute materials, resources, and messaging incorporating CDC’s science-based content via NASW’s online and print communications and programming. NASW will also advise on development of a social work Champions network to increase FASD awareness.

NASW is pleased to continue working in partnership with the American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and others in CDC’s Collaborative for Alcohol-Free Pregnancy to address a significant public health issue that affects women and families across practices and systems of care. 


Anita Prewett, MS, CRA and Leslie Sirrianni, LCSW, University of Texas at Austin (UTA), Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the 2018 NASW National Conference. NASW and UTA are partners in CDC's Collaborative for Alcohol-Free Pregnancy (summary above).

Samples Of FASD Publications Produced In UTA And NASW Partnership

Publications produced in the partnership between UTA Steve Hicks School of Social Work and NASW. NASW and UTA are working together on the Center For Disease Control's Collaborative For Alcohol-Free Pregnancy.

NASW Social Work Talks Podcast Logo

In Episode 5, NASW Social Work Talks Podcast features the Director of the NASW Foundation, Bob Arnold.   Tune in for a discussion about the Foundation's many educational, research, and charitable initiatives.

Alcohol Awareness Month


April is Alcohol Awareness Month—a call for social workers to take steps to protect women’s health and help reduce risky drinking. Visit NASW's Social Work Blog to learn more >>

National Women's Health Week Logo

National Women's Health Week—May 12-18—is a reminder for all women to take care of themselves and to make their personal health a priority. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health created National Women's Health Week
to encourage women to build positive health habits.  Visit NASW's Social Work Blog to learn more >>


September is FASD Awareness Month, an opportunity to highlight social work’s critical role in participating in FASD assessment and referrals, providing FASD-informed services, and advocating for individuals and families living with FASDs.  Visit NASW's Social Work Blog to learn more >>